The days and the nights went by, but which was day and which was night I knew not, save for the visits of the jailers with my meals—I who was blind, I who should never see the light again. At first I suffered much, but by degrees the pain died away. Also a physician came to tend my hurts, a skilful man. Soon I discovered, however, that he had another object. He pitied my state, so much, indeed, he said, that he offered to supply me with a drug that, if I were willing to take it, would make an end of me painlessly. Now I understood at once that Irene desired my death, and, fearing to cause it, set the means of self-murder within my reach.
I thanked the man and begged him to give me the drug, which he did, whereon I hid it away in my garments. When it was seen that I still lived although I had asked for the medicine, I think that Irene believed this was because it had failed to work, or that such a means of death did not please me. So she found another. One evening when a jailer brought my supper he pressed something heavy into my hand, which I felt to be a sword.
“What weapon is this?” I asked, “and why do you give it to me?”
“It is your own sword,” answered the man, “which I was commanded to return to you. I know no more.”
Then he went away, leaving the sword with me.
I drew the familiar blade from its sheath, the red blade that the Wanderer had worn, and touching its keen edge with my fingers, wept from my blinded eyes to think that never again could I hold it aloft in war or see the light flash from it as I smote. Yes, I wept in my weakness, till I remembered that I had no longer any wish to be the death of men. So I sheathed the good sword and hid it beneath my mattress lest some jailer should steal it, which, as I could not see him, he might do easily. Also I desired to put away temptation.
I think that this hour after the bringing of the sword, which stirred up so many memories, was the most fearful of all my hours, so fearful that, had it been prolonged, death would have come to me of its own accord. I had sunk to misery’s lowest deep, who did not know that even then its tide was turning, who could not dream of all the blessed years that lay before me, the years of love and of such peaceful joy as even the blind may win.
That night Martina came—Martina, who was Hope’s harbinger. I heard the door of my prison open and close softly, and sat still, wondering whether the murderers had entered at last, wondering, too, whether I should snatch the sword and strike blindly till I fell. Next I heard another sound, that of a woman weeping; yes, and felt my hand lifted and pressed to a woman’s lips, which kissed it again and yet again. A thought struck me, and I began to draw it back. A soft voice spoke between its sobs.
“Have no fear, Olaf. I am Martina. Oh, now I understand why yonder tigress sent me on that distant mission.”